Covering the MLS' Biggest, Baddest Team
It looks like Beckham and Donovan have kicked off what will become an annual MLS tradition. Sometime between the MLS Cup and New Year’s Day, we’ll begin to hear about how a number of MLS stars, looking to say sharp, head over to Europe for trials and training stints. Young players will be looking to break into top flight European soccer and older players will be looking for one last payday.
As I said on Twitter earlier today, the only difference between a trial and a training stint is the level of commitment of the buyer going in. If a player is an upgrade for the team, the team will make an offer. A trial just means that the club thinks that might be the case before the player arrives.
With the Galaxy saying no to Becks and Landon saying no to Merseyside, attention over a possible transfer or loan move of a Galaxy player has shifted to Edson Buddle. Buddle’s training stint with Birmingham City was widely reported, but now he is linked with Stoke, Wolves, Everton, Rangers, and League One side Sheffield Wednesday, who have apparently deemed Buddle “too rich for our blood.”
While the American keeper has been a mainstay in England for a while, the American striker hasn’t been far behind. Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey have firmly embedded themselves in Fulham lore, and even Eddie Johnson is experiencing something of a renaissance at Craven Cottage. Edson is also a classic English striker: a big, powerful target forward who can get on the end of crosses and run at defenses.
If a permanent move becomes a possibility, it makes too much sense for everyone involved. Buddle would get his chance to ply his trade at the highest level, which would be his best option for staying in the picture for the 2014 World Cup. The cupboard is quickly filling up with young strikers if Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo stay on track. MLS would likely be selling high on Buddle, getting the best possible transfer fee, without losing too much marketing punch.
The only real loser in this scenario would be the Galaxy, who would be back to an even thinner strike force now that Tristan Bowen was shipped down the hallway. That’s probably the reason Bruce Arena has been so adamant that Buddle isn’t going anywhere; the Galaxy don’t have a good option to replace him. The best hope is to delay a move until after the SuperDraft where the Galaxy can hopefully pick up a young replacement for Buddle.
Since the league holds at least some of the strings, I would expect that if the price is right, Buddle will go. And until adequate replacements are found, that would turn a Galaxy team that has looked talented but top-heavy in 2011 into one that now has question marks all over the field.
With the Ronaldinho rumors seemingly dead in the water, you would expect that the Galaxy move on to another designated player target. This is clearly a team built to win now, having added veterans like Juan Pablo Angel and Frankie Heduk during the Re-Entry draft. It makes no sense for the Galaxy to pinch pennies going into this year. Al Davis might as well be running the team: “Just Win, Baby”.
Obviously the most likely candidate to become the Galaxy’s third designated player is Angel. It may take DP money to sign the forward. However, rumor had it that money wasn’t necessarily the sticking point with New York and Angel was not coming back to Red Bull Arena at any price. I’m not positive what the Galaxy’s cap situation is like, but let’s assume for the sake of fantasy that Angel could be signed to a standard contract and the Galaxy still have room for another DP.
And that DP could be Jozy Altidore.
Jozy only makes sense if Edson Buddle’s trial in the English Premier League works out (which may mean that his work permit appeal works out). As taxing as this season will be for the Galaxy with CONCACAF Champions League commitments, that’s simply too much money invested in three players where only two can play.
While Jozy is physically imposing, he would be the off forward to Angel, who is more adept at this point at holding the ball up. Jozy has always been at his best when he’s allowed to turn and run at the defense, or when he’s played in behind.
It would be a boon for the USMNT as well, since Jozy needs game reps. MLS is no La Liga, but Jozy isn’t playing in La Liga. Jozy is getting time in Copa del Rey and being brought on as a substitute in Europa League matches. At the international level, Altidore has always been a player who needs to find the game and takes his time doing so. He needs to start and build a rhythm from the first whistle and learn to get into the game quickly. But getting 15 minutes here and there just teaches him to press, to do too much.
The biggest downside is that it would once again heap expectations on a player who has struggled to carry them so far. Jozy has also walked the fine line between youthful bravado and youthful foolishness, not always on the right side of that line. There is significant risk in a return to MLS as the Fourth Horseman of a loaded Galaxy squad. But with an experienced manager and reforming a successful strike partnership, perhaps Jozy’s continued learning could pay dividends for the Galaxy.